Top 100 looks at the corporate landscape

Our annual look at the region's Top 100 businesses is out today and in many ways reflects the struggles firms have faced as the overall economy shuddered to a halt.

The report takes the measure of local businesses in several categories - market capitalization, CEO pay, employment, total return on investment - to provide snapshots of the corporate landscape from different angles.

A look at the list of companies ranked by total return (on Page 31 of the printed version of the special section, and at is revealing.

Total return is the growth or shrinkage of an investment, including dividends and changes in the company's share price.

By that measure, only a dozen of the 100 public companies on the list had positive results for the 12 months ended June 8.

And the top five provide examples of what it has taken in this harsh climate to impress investors:

1. Republic First Bancorp Inc., of Philadelphia,which is merging with the former Commerce Bank of Pennsylvania to become Metro Bank, returned 64.6 percent in the year ended June 8. The Metro Bank combination is backed by Commerce Bancorp Inc. founder Vernon Hill and led by former Commerce executives hoping to repeat the magic of the old Commerce's growth.

2. Dorman Products Inc., maker of 92,000 low-cost aftermarket auto parts, returned 50.4 percent. In an era that has seen new-car sales evaporate and automakers nationalized, the notion is that people increasingly need parts to patch up the old wagon.

(Philadelphia-based The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack came in at No. 10. Though its one-year return was just 2.3 percent, it was one of the golden dozen.)

3. J&J Snack Foods Corp. is the maker of snacks including soft pretzels - one of the region's signature comfort foods. Its one-year return was 37.5 percent. (Another regional comfort food contenter, Tasty Baking Co. of Philadelphia, was No. 6 on our list.)

4 Lannett Co. Inc., a maker of generic drugs, returned 26.7 percent for the year ended June 8. In calendar year 2008, Lannett shares climbed 62 percent as the company added new products and consumerism and health-care providers sought low-cost drug alternatives.

5 Destination Maternity Corp., the maternity clothing retailer, returned 19.3 percent as investors figured babies might be more predictable than the economy.

Mike Armstrong is away. Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114 or